Is “enjoyment” the next big global food trend?

Articles
October 16, 2008

Is “enjoyment” the next big global food trend?

A new trend tracking report from Ketchum, entitled “Food 2020 The Consumer as CEO” offers some insights into what our shoppers are thinking and looking for in the aisles and from the companies that produce their foods. This consumer survey tracked attitudes and behaviors in shoppers living in the United Kingdom, Germany, Argentina, China and the United States. Across these five countries, Ketchum found more similarities in what consumers were looking for than one might expect. Linda Eatherton, Partner, Global Food & Nutrition Practice Director, who spearheaded the Food 2020 project as part of the celebration of the 30-year anniversary of their well-respected Ketchum Kitchen, titled the report as “The Consumer as CEO” to send a wake up call to food manufactures, retailers and restaurants. “It’s all about the consumer, who is making decisions faster and more holistically then we have ever seen,” Eatherton says. “Our research reinforces that consumers ‘want it all…and want to know it all’, and if brands want to stay relevant they must be able connect and deliver on all expectations and desires.” Not an easy task, I know personally as I was one of those that Ketchum reached out to help them draft the consumer questions which would hopefully bring us all to the future faster. In reviewing the research, there are a number of “wows’ that clearly live up to Eatherton’s wake-up call strategy.

A new trend tracking report from Ketchum, entitled “Food 2020 The Consumer as CEO” offers some insights into what our shoppers are thinking and looking for in the aisles and from the companies that produce their foods. This consumer survey tracked attitudes and behaviors in shoppers living in the United Kingdom, Germany, Argentina, China and the United States.

Across these five countries, Ketchum found more similarities in what consumers were looking for than one might expect. Linda Eatherton, Partner, Global Food & Nutrition Practice Director, who spearheaded the Food 2020 project as part of the celebration of the 30-year anniversary of their well-respected Ketchum Kitchen, titled the report as “The Consumer as CEO” to send a wake up call to food manufactures, retailers and restaurants.

“It’s all about the consumer, who is making decisions faster and more holistically then we have ever seen,” Eatherton says. “Our research reinforces that consumers ‘want it all…and want to know it all’, and if brands want to stay relevant they must be able connect and deliver on all expectations and desires.”

Not an easy task, I know personally as I was one of those that Ketchum reached out to help them draft the consumer questions which would hopefully bring us all to the future faster.

In reviewing the research, there are a number of “wows’ that clearly live up to Eatherton’s wake-up call strategy.

Wake Up #1: Consumers like playing with food. In fact, the research showed that in all the Countries surveyed with the exception of China, the consumers viewed food as “enjoyment” with the “key to health” far behind. In China, “key to health” was the number one response. One insight was that as countries and cultures develop economically, their shoppers move further away from necessity, sustenance and nourishment and seek other benefits from food.

Wake Up #2: Taste is King, but not for long. Rising on Ketchum’s radar is the shopper paying much more attention to the ingredients in the food and where they come from. On average, 6 out of 10 consumers, in all five countries, said they want to be able to recognize all of the ingredients on a food label. Those in Germany want lead the others in desiring to have as few ingredients in their foods as possible.  The insight? Consumers have become spoiled by choice and spooked by issues; and will demand brands to clean up their labels and sourcing.

Wake Up #3: Brands are losing their relevance. The survey found across all countries that “taste, quality and price” are the top food-shopping considerations. With only an average of a third or respondents naming the “brand name” as a top consideration. Eatherton warns that if CPG brands lose their relevance that innovations in taste, health attributes and research will come to a screeching halt, and we cannot allow that to happen.

Wake Up #4 Price is not the barrier to eating healthy. It appears that the lack of knowledge and poor taste are the problems. In the United States, the real or perceived “taste concern” ranked as number one, while “knowledge’ is the major barrier in China, Argentina and Germany.  “The Consumer as CEO” report illustrates how the wide spread confusion on health issues has damaged the growth of healthier offerings and has consumers returning to the tried and true foods rather than experimenting with foods that could be beneficial.

Wake Up #5: Local is hot, but will we sacrifice taste or pay more? Surprisingly enough, the respondents in China were the least concerned about paying more and the most willing to embrace the local food trend; while Argentina was the most concerned and less willing. Across all countries, over two-thirds of consumers think that at least some of their foods come from other countries, but grossly underestimated just how much. Here in the U.S., 45% of all fruit sold here is imported and 80% of seafood. Back to China, were just 4% of their foodstuffs are imported.

As I walk the aisles these days, there is little doubt in my mind that “The Consumer is The CEO”…and Ketchum’s take on this concept offers a number of takeaways, including that the number one global food priority must be to improve human nutrition and make food safer. This is based on insights that the Germans, Chinese and Argentines said if they were the “CEO” they would use their power to solve obesity and make foods safe. Making foods with more nutrients per calorie was also viewed as a high priority across all countries, in particular Argentina. The consumers in China, once again a surprise, had the highest percentage of respondents who linked the importance with good food choices to reducing their health care costs.

The top line from the Food 2020 Survey is that consumers indeed expect food to be different in 2020. The foods that are both safe and have health benefits are core to that expectation; and that they are depending on and demanding that the companies that produce our foods be good stewards of the environment, agriculture in particular, and have a significant social responsibility platform. Otherwise they will not support those brands and retailers.